Can you imagine a sport that combines rugby, football, handball, basketball and ice hockey?
That may be tough to imagine, but many years ago some people in Canada created something truly amazing called Wheelchair Rugby. This is an adaptive sport played by people with disabilities that affect both their upper body and lower body. It is played on a basketball court with a volleyball that is carried, dribbled, and passed to try to drive across the goal line. In many ways it is similar to handball except for one major difference: It's a full contact sport!
Believe it or not 'Murderball' used to be the official name for Wheelchair Rugby in the USA and Canada. They called it this because of how physical the game was (and there was even an Oscar nominated documentary with the same name). No, no one is murdered during the course of the game although it may seem like it with how hard they get hit. Above all, this is an amazing sport. It's just as intense as any sport with just as much hitting as hockey (I'd honestly put the hitting more similar to hockey than rugby despite the name).
So what's happening in the world of Wheelchair Rugby?
Right now the biggest thing for nearly any eligible adaptive sport is the Paralympic Games. It is an enormous worldwide showcase of the best of the best in 23 different disabled and adaptive sports coming up in September. Wheelchair Rugby is a relative newcomer to the Paralympic Games (in 1996 it was introduced as a 'Demonstration Sport') but it is one of the most highly anticipated this year because of it's intensity.
There are many national tournaments throughout the year, as well as the Invictus Games (a Paralympic-style event for active duty military personnel and veterans of many countries) which took place in Orlando, Florida in May.
Leading up to the Paralympics, a biannual, international tournament, The Canada Cup, took place in June. This year the US Wheelchair Rugby team beat Canada in their last game to take first place! Many other teams competed from around the world including Sweden, Japan and Great Britain. This also put the US team in perfect position as they are now ranked #1 in the world heading into the Paralympic Games!
This year's Paralympic Games is even more important because it could possibly be the biggest event of its kind ever! Yes, they are always adding sports and new events, but the biggest change is that it will be televised an unprecedented amount in the USA (66 hours of coverage on NBC and their networks as well as livestreams on TeamUSA.org). With this amount of coverage here and worldwide, the event will be groundbreaking in bringing recognition not only to sports like these, but also to raise awareness and improve perceptions for people with disabilities.
The 2016 Paralympic Games take place in Rio de Janiero, Brazil from September 7 to September 18 with the Wheelchair Rugby competitions taking place from the 14th to the 18th.